It can be rather tempting for brands and causes to shake things up by making shocking marketing messages that cause visceral reactions. Some brands have gotten great business mileage out of this approach. Others have found themselves in deep doo-doo as consumer blowback undermined their messages and integrity.
In the following pages, you will find nine examples of shocking brand messages. Five seem to work in that they garner strong reactions, but largely of a positive nature. Four had some really bad brand consequences. We'll sum up with some conclusions on what works and what doesn't.
WIN: MethLife ain't pretty
Lots of agencies volunteer to do pro bono work for worthy charities. A big part of the appeal, beyond the opportunity to do good, is that PSAs offer the opportunity to do award-winning work free of the taste constraints of large companies. Nonprofits in particular gravitate toward the technique because their limited budgets and reliance on donated remnant inventory mean every exposure needs to get noticed.
These ads against methamphetamine use are a great example of how dramatization and raw empathy can get a message noticed.
The campaign has received strong media attention and significant free views on YouTube and other venues. Perhaps more importantly, it dramatizes very real possible consequences of taking the drug.